Immigration Lawyer Careers

ENTRY LEVEL EDUCATION

Online Law Degrees

CAREER TRAINING

Online Paralegal Programs

NUMBER OF JOBS

728,200

JOB OPENINGS

73,600

JOB GROWTH

10%

AVG. SALARY

$112,760 /yr

$54.21 /hr

All Stats from www.BLS.gov

Immigration lawyers help non-native immigrants to the United States manage their immigration issues—including green cards, naturalizations, and visa renewals. They also provide legal help and counsel for people facing extradition back to their own countries, or other penalties as a result of illegal immigration.

How to Become an Immigration Lawyer

First earn your Bachelor’s degree. There is no specific requirement for Bachelor’s subjects if you want to be a lawyer. However, taking classes in civics, history, politics, and law can help, as can classes in subjects such as writing and literature—as law is a field that relies heavily on writing and text analysis. Classes in public speaking can also help. If you are planning to be an immigration lawyer, it can also help to study the language or languages of the people you’d like to specialize in representing.

Second, earn your law degree. A law degree typically takes about two years to earn. During this time, you’ll study general topics such as property law, constitutional law, legal contracts, and legal writing. In the second year, you’ll start to specialize in topics more relevant to immigration law.

Third, pass the Bar exam in your state. You must take the Bar exam to practice as a lawyer in any state in the country. The Bar exam is a multiple-choice test that gauges  your expertise in federal and state law. Once you have passed the Bar, you will be able to legally practice as a lawyer.

Immigration Lawyer Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average salary for lawyers is around $112,760 as of 2010—with those in the lower 10% earning less than $54,130, and those in the higher range earning more than $166,400. While your salary will vary depending on the region where you work and your employer, immigration lawyer salaries tend to be on the lower end—as many immigration lawyers work for nonprofit and government organizations that are not high-paying. In addition, you may own your own practice as an immigration lawyer—but your clients are likely to be individuals with limited resources, rather than high-paying corporations.

Becoming an Immigration Lawyer with an Online Degree

It is not possible to become an immigration lawyer at present with an accredited online degree. This is because the American Bar Association—the organization that administers the Bar exam—only allows people with degrees from accredited law schools to sit for the Bar. Only traditional law schools are accredited by the ABA, and so students graduating from online law schools are not allowed to sit for the Bar.

There are a few exceptions, such as California, that allows students from online law schools to sit for the Bar. California is a good state to be in for immigration lawyers, given the border it shares with Mexico and the relatively large volume of Mexican and other immigrants who live and work there. However, if you want to practice law outside of California, you would have to not only sit for the Bar again, but attend law school a second time and earn a Juris Doctor from a traditional school.

Job Outlook for Immigration Lawyers

The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts that the demand for lawyers across all fields will grow by approximately 10% within the next decade. This is about the same as the growth of the economy generally.

However, the competition for new law school graduates has been fairly grim in the economic downturn. With more bright and qualified students entering law school in the hopes of waiting out the economy and getting a lucrative legal job after graduation, competition is extremely high—and with companies and organizations cutting their budgets, there are fewer jobs available than in years past. This career field tends to be strongly affected by economic swings.

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Immigration Lawyer

Many lawyers, including immigration lawyers, work long hours—and the pay can often be less than you’d expect for a career that requires such a high amount of investment in education. Law school students can graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and competition for jobs is high. However, for those determined to help immigrants, this job can be difficult—but rewarding.

Where to Find Immigration Lawyer Jobs

Indeed.com
Glassdoor.com
Monster.com